Saturday, February 27, 2010

An overdose of historical fiction?

I've read four historical novels in a row, and now I've got the flu (or a sore throat, aches, and a slight fever, anyway). Could there be a connection? I suspect that I'll start feeling better the moment I start reading fantasy, which will happen after this post, at which point I'll crawl back into bed with Melinda Lo's Ash.

The Brothers Story by Katherine Sturtevant:
Although the jacket art depicts a lad who looks like a 70s California Boy, this novel about a teen who leaves his "simple" twin brother behind in their impoverished village to seek a better life in London plunged me right into the desperately cold winter of 1683. I sensed no anachronisms - even Kit's mindset and attitude (about sex and women, about religion, about a person's rightful station, about fairness) were clearly far from modern. There has always been a place in my heart for stories about roughing it in London Town, and this is a good 'un. For ages 13 and up.

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine:
12-year-old Dit is thoroughly bummed when his tiny Alabama town's new postmaster doesn't have a boy his age but rather a daughter named Emma. Not only that, she's black - and in 1917, this can have ramifications. Tensions lead to a horrible situation - and it is Dit and Emma who manage to patch up the fallout. Although that sounds grim, the book's overall tone is easy-going. Dit is just a boy who wants to play baseball, do okay in school, and do the right thing. Emma, luckily, can help him with the last two, even if she's somewhat lacking in baseball skills. Fine novel (even if Dit's use of the word "gross" jarred me a bit. Did they say that in 1917?) for ages 9 to 13.

Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino:
The title is long but the book is short. This is a slice of life from 1969 New Jersey, told from the point of view of a literal-minded girl named Tammy who just can't stand that her best friend is gone and and in her place (fostered by the same woman) is a little runt who tells huge whoppers. That this boy (Douglas, but known by Tammy's sarcastic nickname Muscle Man) must have a sad story to be in foster care, and that he is pretty darn nice guy despite his lies, doesn't occur to Tammy; she is unrelentingly intolerant and unforgiving of him, all the way through a 13 to 1 game of kickball (the sacred game in Tammy's neighborhood, which Muscle Man swore he could beat them all at single-handed). It's hard to understand why Tammy is so thick-headed - but still, this book is a quick and well-written read for ages 8 to 12.

Outside Beauty by Cynthia Kadohata:
13-year-old Shelby's family is anything but traditional - she lives with her gorgeous, beauty-obsessed, commitment-phobic mom and her three sisters, all of whom have different dads. When Shelby's mom is in a terrible car accident, the sisters all get shipped out to their four dads, and all they can think about is getting back together again. Kadohata can do know wrong as far as I'm concerned - this is a quirky, funny, touching look at family. None of the characters are perfect (far from it!), but we get to know them through Shelby's increasingly understanding eyes. I listened to this as an audiobook and adored Sue Jean Kim's narration. For ages 11 and up. (My 18-year-old daughter loved it, too).
Oh, and it takes place in 1983, which qualifies as Olden Days.

So there you have it. Let it not be said that I never read anything but SFF. But now I'm weak and feverish again. Definitely time for some fantasy - the best medicine.

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